Friday, March 27, 2009

Time To Spare

Context: Yes, it's true: before getting into computers and software, before working at some big multinational software company, before becoming wired, I used to teach English conversation in Japan. I lived in a small city called Yonago, in Tottori Prefecture, which is about 3 hours northwest of Osaka by bus, situated along the Sea of Japan. I worked at a small English Conversation school called "Nicenglish" ... that's not a spelling mistake. Nicenglish. The following is an email that I sent to a friend of mine who was depressed about teaching. The email was written a few years after working in Japan so I had hindsight to help flesh out the details of my time there. Take it for what it's worth (which isn't that much).

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When I was a teacher in Japan, there were days in which I was sick and tired of teaching to children who would not listen, high school student who did not seem to care and even adults who were not that interested. It’s draining to stand in front of people and sell yourself and your knowledge to people who seem to not find value in you. It drained the life out of me, the fun I had, the motivation to wake up and go to work. By this point, even small things that were often trivial were often perceived as major crises in my life. And because it was winter and because it rained a lot in Yonago didn’t help that much either.

But, believe it or not, I found solace in bowling. You may laugh and find it strange but I was able to relax by going to the neighborhood bowling center. My walk from my apartment to the bowling center took about 15 minutes. As I walked through downtown Yonago, I would pass by a small bakery and buy myself a “cheese and sausage roll”. Upon reaching the bowling center, I would rent a single lane and bowl about two games. Although I was by myself, it was a lot of fun. In my mind, I knew that my body was moving. I knew that I was thinking about how I should throw the ball. Best of all, I knew that no matter how badly I threw the ball, no one was watching so I could do whatever I wanted to do. After two games, I would go into the little game center and try the UFO Catcher. Most of the time, I would not get anything. But sometimes, on very rare occasions, I would get a Miffy or Doraemon doll.

Next to the bowling center was a small park. I would go outside and there at the park, I would find an empty bench, sit down and start eating my cheese and sausage roll and start drinking Afternoon Tea. I would see older grandfather and grandmother types, walking slowly with baby carriages that didn’t have babies in them. I would see mothers and children playing nearby a slide and swing set. Later in the afternoon, I would see students in uniforms, giggling and gossiping. By the time I was done with my roll and Afternoon Tea, it was time to go back to work. But instead of feeling down and feeling blue, I felt warm because of the just eaten roll. I felt, in many ways, satisfied.

Someone once said that “if you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” If you had the time, how would you spend the afternoon?

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So, how would you spend a spare afternoon?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Get Out Of My Life - Corn Syrup and Aspartame

If you ever have the chance to visit my workplace, you'll often find me huddled in one corner of my office, sucking down pure corn syrup and ripping open little packets of Equal that I conveniently borrowed from nearby restaurants so that I could get my faux sugar fix. Once in my system, it takes the edge off so that I can get through the day without imploding into a black hole of productivity-killing inaction. Yes, it's true: I'm a corn syrup and aspartame junkie. And my junk dujour was Coke (corn syrup) and diet Coke (aspartame).

But since last week, I decided to cut corn syrup and aspartame out of my diet. No more Coke and Diet Coke (or any sweetened carbonated drink). I figure if I cut the corn syrup, I can probably lose a pound or two, while saving my teeth from early decomposition. And as for the aspartame, a friend had mentioned that since drinking diet Coke, his ability to remember things and his motivation to do things had lessened to a point where he felt no longer productive. Of course, there is no proof that aspartame is the cause of his lose of memory or productivity (for all we know, my friend could just be a total slacker, which wouldn't be a surprise). But I figured I might as well through aspartame out the window and see what happens.

So ... it's been a little over a week. And my progress so far can probably be summed up with: ... well ... hmmm .... I don't feel any different.

So, I guess it's going to take a little bit more than a week to see actual results. With both corn syrupy stuff and Nutrasweetness off the table, I wonder if this change in my diet will significantly change me in any way. I'll update after a month or two and see what happens ... unless, of course, I forget or have no motivation to write about it, which would mean that I'm back on drinking several cans of Coca-Cola products a day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

2009 TV Season So Far

I rarely have time to watch live TV. Whenever I do have time, I usually end up going to or to catch up on my fave TV shows. Here's what I watch and how the season is going so far:

LOST - Very trippy but still rock solid writing. For all of the questions posed during the last four seasons, the answers to these questions (as well as the infusion of new questions) are coming out at a fast and furious clip. For someone who has watched the show from the very beginning, it's very rewarding to see how all of the threads tie in together into a this one big ball of solid storytelling.

24 - Starts off pretty solid and continues to really keep the story going. The only downside is when the writiers introduced the bad guy's girlfriend. I'm not sure what they were thinking (did we want to feel sympathy for the bad guy? somehow connect with the girlfriend?). I'm not sure. But I'm liking it so far. Much better than Season 6, which isn't saying much.

Battlestar Galactica - this is the last season for BSG and so far, the character-driven storytelling is really deep. I really didn't get into BSG until somewhere in the middle of the third season but since then, it's been quite a ride. I'll be sad when the series comes to a close. It's the anti-Star Trek - The Next Generation of our times.